As the meat industry approaches 2016, it is important to reflect on the drivers of change and innovation that will continue to affect companies in the new year. Consumer demands for on-the-go packaging are growing, and more stringent food safety regulations demand greater strides in recall prevention and execution. In order to keep up with the ever-changing consumer demands and regulations, meat and poultry manufacturers are turning toward automation, convenience-enhancing packaging and more robust workforce development practices to stay ahead of the curve.

Anticipate, automate to improve food safety

Recalls pose a serious risk to meat and poultry manufacturers as they can irreparably damage brand integrity. Many companies aim to prevent these issues through the implementation of demanding food safety standards, even in some cases more stringent than the FDA’s current mandates.

As noted in PMMI’s 2015 State of the Industry – U.S. Packaging Machinery Report, Section 204 of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), “requires businesses to be able to identify, at minimum, the immediate supplier and recipient (other than retailers to consumers) of a product; resulting in increased investment in systems that support traceability so products can be traced from source material through the complete supply chain.”

Meat and poultry manufacturers are increasing automation on their production lines to reduce contamination risks posed by human interaction or error. As a result, the industry can expect to see more easy-to-clean stainless steel machines and more automation that reduces human contact throughout the production and packaging processes. To help companies understand and evaluate these technologies, organizations, such as the OpX Leadership Network, bring industry leaders together to better assess these solutions in the context of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and evaluating sanitary equipment design as well as sustainability.

On-the-go consumers define the market

Food safety matters aren’t the only drivers of change. As the day-to-day lives of consumers become increasingly busy, demand for convenience grows among all sectors, including the meat industries. According to a July Euromonitor International report titled “Packaging Industry in the U.S,” the biggest factor driving consumer purchase decisions is the quickening pace of the average lifestyle. As a result, consumers seek food products that are packaged for their convenience.

The report, which focused on trends in North America, noted preferences for packaging “intended to be a single serving size or that can be easily shared and re-sealed for later.” This trend especially applies to meat products that are ready for consumption. For example, industry leaders, such as Oscar Meyer, have developed specific portable packaging called the “P3 Portable Protein Pack,” which holds cheese, nuts and chilled meat all in one easy-to-use package.

Additionally, changes to packaging sizes and materials aim to better reflect U.S. demographics and consumer eco-consciousness. Packaging formats are shrinking to cater to smaller family sizes in addition to becoming smaller, thinner and crafted from materials that reduce the environmental impact. The desire for packaging that can minimize negative effects on the environment is also a driver of flexible packaging growth — a trend that continues to sweep the meat and poultry industry.

Equipment upgrades to engage, support workforce

As shifting regulatory and consumer needs transform processing and packaging operations, it’s important for meat and poultry manufacturers to equip their workers with the knowledge and tools that can ease these transitions. To simplify this process, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are rolling out human machine interfaces (HMIs) that make it easier to train operators and service equipment with simplified navigation and advanced capabilities for predictive maintenance.

Another major challenge for the meat and poultry industries lies in maintaining an engaged workforce, especially with the influx of new innovations and technologies that are reshaping production lines. The OpX Leadership Network highlights the cost of disengaged employees and the importance of empowerment, engagement and accountability. It stresses the power of management frameworks and address the productivity of human and capital resources, providing the insights and tools needed to cope with the changes and ensure production lines remain consistent and operational.

Discover more resources

As the pace of change quickens, meat and poultry manufacturers in need of insights and solutions to tackle their challenges with traceability, food safety, convenience packaging and workforce development solutions should mark their calendars for PACK EXPO International 2016 (Nov. 6-9, 2016; McCormick Place, Chicago). The show will bring together more than 2,300 suppliers to showcase a wide range of processing and packaging solutions to 50,000 attendees in 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space. Learn more about PACK EXPO International 2016 at and PMMI’s OpX Leadership Network at www.pmmi.orgNP

About PMMI

PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 700 North American manufacturers of equipment, components and materials for processing and packaging. We work to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the world class PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of processing and packaging to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Pharma EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech, launching in April 2017. PMMI Media Group connects manufacturers to the latest solutions, trends and innovations in processing and packaging year-round through brands including Packaging World, Automation World, Healthcare Packaging, Contract Packaging and Packaging + Processing OEM. PMMI Business Drivers assist members in pursuing operational excellence through workforce development initiatives, deliver actionable business intelligence on economic, market and industry trends to support members’ growth strategies, and actively connect the supply chain throughout the year. Learn more at, and